Category Archives: Children’s books

The Door in the Wall

The Door in the Wall, by Marguerite de Angeli, was published in 1949 and received the Newbery Medal for excellence in American children’s literature in 1950. It is a book I remember reading and loving when I was ten or eleven.  And as a school teacher, I used it for a novel study when I taught my 6th Grade unit on the Middle Ages. It’s a wonderful story and teaching tool for that period of history, and for that age group.

The story takes place in the 14th century, and Robin, who comes from a noble family, is expected to become a knight.

Ever since he could remember, Robin had been told what was expected of him as son of his father. Like other sons of noble family, he would be sent away from his mother and father to live in the household of another knight, where he would learn all the ways of knighthood. He would learn how to be of service to his liege lord, how to be courteous and gentle, and, at the same time, strong of heart.

Robin’s father was away fighting in a war, and his mother was called to serve as a Lady-in-Waiting to the queen, so Robin was supposed to start his long training for knighthood. However, before he could leave home, he and the servants that were caring for him while his parents were gone became ill. Most of the servants died, and Robin was left alone, ill and forgotten. A kindly monk, Brother Luke, heard that a child was left alone and came to help him. He nursed him until he was well, but the illness left Robin extremely weak and without the use of his legs. The story of his recovery and of how he overcame his limitations both physically and emotionally is what makes this book a wonderful read.

Brother Luke was a kind and gentle teacher and caretaker. He and the other monks took Robin underwing, and taught him to read and to do many things for himself.

“Always remember that,” said the friar. “Thou hast only to follow the wall far enough and there will be a door in it.” “I will remember,” Robin promised, but he wasn’t sure that he knew what Brother Luke meant to say.

“Whether thou’lt walk soon I know not. This I know. We must teach thy hands to be skillful in many ways, and we must teach thy mind to go about whether thy legs will carry thee or no. For reading is another door in the wall, dost understand, my son?”

The language of the book is challenging for young readers, but the story is compelling and captures the reader. The history and culture of that period of time are masterfully presented and it’s a wonderful immersion into Medieval daily life.

But my favorite thing about the book is that it focuses on what is really meaningful in life, then and now. It’s a story about overcoming adversity and learning to understand and accept one’s own strengths and weaknesses. It shows the importance of doing one’s best and being open to opportunities that help you find an enjoyable and meaningful way to give back to the community. And it’s a story of a boy learning how to embrace life, despite the difficulties he faces daily. It’s a story full of wisdom, and our classroom discussions about the ideas in the book were wonderful. 

None of us is perfect. It is better to have crooked legs than a crooked spirit. We can only do the best we can with what we have. That, after all, is the measure of success: what we do with what we have.

A wonderful read and highly recommended!

This book was on my list of 50-books-to-read-in-five years for The Classics Club. It was also on my list of Birth Year Reading, a personal challenge.

A Year in the Big Old Garden

What a delightful book! A Year in the Big Old Garden, by James D. Witmer, is a treasure to be shared with young and old. The illustrations are beautiful and the stories are full of fun humor, kindness, and lots of good information about the natural world of the big old garden. Although the stories were written for children, they are both timeless and ageless, and a must read!

From the author:

I write about adventure, small woodland creatures, and what happens when you realize there are no ordinary places.

This book is available for Amazon Kindle, or as a printable PDF.

Click here to read an interview with the author, James D. Witmer.

Mystery Book

The Grandboy will be staying with us tomorrow, so I bought him a book while I was at Powell’s the other day trying to escape the heat of this scorching week. I found a display of “mystery books” for young readers.  Someone very creative at  Powell’s had created the covers, and  I just couldn’t resist picking this one up for him. We’ll find out what book it is when he removes the wrapping. I hope he likes it!

UPDATE: The mystery book revealed!

Currently Reading: Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm

The book chosen from my booklist for The Classics Club Spin #18, was Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, by Kate Douglas Wiggin. Not knowing anything about it (except a vague memory of Shirley Temple as Rebecca?), I was a little nervous about starting it, but that didn’t last for long! I’ve read two chapters and am captured by it. Actually, Rebecca seems to capture everyone who comes in contact with her, including me! How could I have missed reading this classic as I was growing up?

Hannah and Sugar

What is courage? What does it really mean to be brave? These are the essential questions in this sweet little book for young people, Hannah and Sugar. Hannah is afraid of dogs. Something happens to change that  in this award winning book by Oregon illustrator/author, Kate Berube.

I can so relate to Hannah! I’ve always had a fear of dogs, but as I grow older, I find myself wanting to experience that very special relationship I see between my friends and their dogs. Maybe someday I will learn about my own fear of dogs and become a dog person, like Hannah.

 

The Railway Children

Illustration by Inga Moore…

Somehow I missed reading the books of Edith Nesbit as I was growing up. I would have loved them! Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to make up for missing them in childhood by gifting myself an E. Nesbit read every so often. That’s my way of making the pleasure last longer and I won’t run out of her books so soon!

My most recent Nesbit pleasure was to listen to the audiobook version of The Railway Children narrated by one of my favorite narrators, Virginia Leishman. What a fun way to spend some rainy hours indoors! And I would highly recommend it for families on road trips!

Publisher’s summary…

Father has suddenly and mysteriously disappeared. Now Mother has moved Roberta, Peter, and Phyllis from London to an old English country house. Missing the hustle and bustle of the city, the children are ecstatic to find that their new home is near a railway station. Making friends with both the porter and the station master is great fun. So is waving to a kindly old gentleman who rides through on the 9:15 every morning. When mother gets sick, it is he to whom they turn for help. And later, when a fortunate twist of fate returns their father to them, they are surprised to find the old gentleman involved once again.

Written by an unconventional woman whose friends included H. G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw, this classic has been popular since it was first published almost 100 years ago. Virginia Leishman’s enthusiasm translates these adventuresome children into heroes for modern listeners.

Public Domain (P)1999 Recorded Books

As with all the Nesbit books I have read so far, the main characters are very nice, bright children who have great imaginations, love stories and outdoor play, and who change the world around them with what is called  “loving kindness” in the book. Oh how I wish I had read this book to my students while I was still teaching! The modeling of loving kindness is so important in today’s world…and how better to teach the idea than to read this beautiful story to young people and let them love those railway children and their adventures, and make those connections themselves.

illustration by C.E. Brock.

 

I chose to read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

Natalie Babbitt

natalie-babbitt

I am so sad to hear that Natalie Babbitt has passed away. She is one of my favorite authors and I loved reading her books aloud to my 6th grade students when I was teaching. Most people remember her as the author of Tuck Everlasting, which is a book I loved and loved to use as a unit of study in the classroom.  But my personal favorite of all her books is the hauntingly beautiful love story, The Eyes of the Amaryllis, a story about how love transcends death.

Her writing is so beautiful and her stories so honest and full of wisdom. Her books stole my heart many years ago and I loved sharing them with young people year after year. Her intelligent, beautiful, lyrical voice will be deeply missed!

Click here to read her obituary in the NY Times.

the-eyes-of-the-amaryllis

 

Home

Home

We had a lovely Thanksgiving this year with all the family at home, including the Grandboy. We didn’t go anywhere, except for long walks, and the family just enjoyed being at home, quietly doing their own kinds of things over the extended weekend. The best kind of holiday!

Home, by Carson Ellis, is a wonderfully illustrated picture book about HOMES, and all Ellis’s fun illustrations introduce young children to the idea that there are homes of all kinds around the world and in imagination. I really fell in love with this book because it is filled with a combination of fun and fancy, and very important ideas. Children (of all ages) will enjoy this compassionate introduction to diversity.

Carson Ellis is a local artist (Portland, Oregon) who has also worked collaboratively with her husband, Colin Melloy, (of the Decemberists) illustrating their terrific series, Wildwood Chronicles.

Home 2

 

Sunshine in the House

a_grandchilds_laugh

What’s all that laughter I hear from the Grandboy’s bedroom upstairs? He and his daddy have been reading aloud a whole stack of Diary of a Wimpy Kid books they picked up at the library. There are three sounds I love on a rainy afternoon like this:  The sound of the rain…  the sound of someone in another room reading aloud…  and the sound of my Grandboy’s laughter.

Grandboy books